“In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Over the weekend of May 5/6, members of the St. Gabriel Haiti Ministry spoke at the end of every mass to provide a report on the state of the twinning relationship between St. Gabriel Parish, Upton, and St. Anne Parish, Sucreri Henri, Haiti. I covered the 5:00 mass on Saturday and Christine Baldiga and I covered the 8:00 Sunday morning mass. Verienne Emile and Christine covered the 10:30 and 5:30 Sunday mass. We began each report with a brief personal testimony. Here’s mine:
I first went to Haiti in January of 2007 with my son, Dylan, who was a junior in high school then. This trip opened our eyes to life in Haiti, considered the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. While Haiti certainly is economically poor, it is wealthy in its beauty and in the faith and kindness of its people. During this trip we visited many religious and humanitarian sites where the poor and suffering were sustained despite a lack of resources – seemingly by the grace of God.
It is inevitable that when you visit Haiti, there is a moment when everything you’ve seen – living conditions so difficult and different from your own – come together in a cascade of stark realities that take your breath away and stop you where you stand. My son and I shared such a moment at the Mother Teresa Missionaries of Charity Home, where we were helping to feed the disabled residents including orphaned babies. A baby was taken in while we were there. He had scabies all over his body, and his skin was discolored from the treatment lotion. He was miserable. My son picked him up and rocked him gently, patting his back and talking to him softly, trying to calm him. The baby was inconsolable. I could see the baby’s anguish mirrored in my son’s face. I went to them to try to help, to try to comfort them, with little success. Feeling helpless, we cried together. It hit us then – we were just two people in this sea of people who needed so much, and really, we had so little to offer. We could only cry. And promise to do more. And so I returned to Haiti in 2009 and again this past January, remembering the words of Mother Teresa, “In this life we cannot do great things, only small things with great love.”
St. Gabriel Haiti Ministry Report on the Twinning Relationship with St. Anne Parish
Earlier this year in January, five members of the St. Gabriel Haiti Ministry visited our sister parish, St. Anne in Sucrerie Henri, Haiti This is a brief report to follow up on the visit. First, though a brief history:
We began our twinning relationship with St. Anne Parish in Sucrerie Henri, Haiti in 2001 when Sarah Baldiga and Bethany Carchedi, then high school seniors, went on a mission trip with the Worcester Diocese Haitian Apostolate. Within a very short time, Father Larry was filing with the Haitian Apostolate to develop a twinning relationship with a parish in Haiti. We have sustained our twinning relationship for 17 years.
There have been countless benefits to our twinning relationship throughout the years. Before we list the many areas of physical support we provide our sister parish and her chapels, it is important to note the spiritual and benevolent rewards of our ongoing relationship. Throughout the years our parish has sent delegates to Haiti at least twelve times, often resulting in life-changing moments for the delegates. St. Gabriel has hosted St. Anne’s pastor at least five times. This helps build our connection in both prayer and friendship. St. Gabriel is regularly held in prayer by St. Anne Parish as we also keep them in prayer.
Here are some of the many physical projects we have assisted St. Anne Parish in realizing:
Complete construction of the Kindergarten school and playground equipment
Complete construction of Chapel Beree
Ongoing aid to the clinic
Solar panels for the rectory
Generators for the church, clinic, and chapels
Contribution to buy the parish’s vehicle, acquired October 2017
Our parish’s generous contribution in October 2016 for hurricane Matthew relief
Funds bequeathed by a generous benefactor to repair five of the chapels: LaHatte, Paresseux, Corail, Loufranc, and Mercier and to rebuild Terre Neuve and Bellevue. The repairs have been made, the rebuilding of the two chapels will become future projects.
For several years now, St. Gabriel has made annual contributions to St. Anne Parish with your donations as follows:
- $1000 a month, general donation
- $2000 twice yearly (January and September) for student tuition
- $2000 in June to help with teacher salaries
Our recent visit held many positive interactions at the church, school, clinic and chapels. Father Didier maintains a strong rapport with the St. Anne parishioners. He is a dynamic spiritual leader and an effective community leader. The chapel directors spoke of their appreciation for what St. Gabriel provides as they reported on the state of each of their chapels. The clinic was grateful to receive your gracious donations of medical supplies, and the school is more robust than it has ever been.
As a result of our visit, we have set goals for future projects.
Eventually, we would like to see the schools reopened at all of the chapels. To start, we would like to add two elementary classrooms at one chapel plus cover the teachers’ salaries. The costs are estimated at an initial one-time $1000 for classroom furniture, $500 per year thereafter for school materials, plus $1000 annually for teacher salaries.
Currently the St. Anne students are offered a hot meal twice per week. Father Didier would like to offer a hot meal every school day. This cost for this service is estimated at $1000 a year.
The old St. Anne church sits squarely in the middle of the parish campus in disrepair with its roof caved in by a hurricane long ago. Father Didier and the church council would like to renovate the building to create a community center for gatherings and events. The St. Gabriel Haitian Ministry would like to see it repaired because it is a potential danger to the school children and church community. We expect this to cost $25,000.
In summary, we look forward to our continued relationship with St. Anne parish. They are deeply appreciative of our parish’s support. We promise to keep you updated with the status of projects. All are welcome to join us at our monthly Haiti Ministry meetings. Thank you for your support.